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ING Bank invests in Nearfield Instruments

René Raaijmakers
Leestijd: 2 minuten

Nearfield Instruments has raised 27 million euros in a new investment round. In addition to Innovation Industries, Invest-NL’s Deep Tech Fund and TNO, ING Bank is among the backers this time. Earlier this year, the bank also invested in Smart Photonics.

Top executive Hamed Sadeghian says Nearfield will use the money to expand its production capacity and customer support on-site. Meanwhile, the Rotterdam-based TNO spinoff has a presence in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the US. Interestingly, ING’s press release mentions Nearfield’s obvious customers by name. In addition to Intel, Samsung and TSMC, they include Korea’s SK Hynix, the second-largest manufacturer of memory chips.

Nearfield will also use the new funding to further develop its Audira platform. This new generation of machines not only maps the chip surface but also sketches a three-dimensional image of the structures underneath. This is done with an acoustic technique that builds on the atomic force microscopy (AFM) technology of Nearfield’s first platform, the Quadra.

The Audira uses atomically sharp probes to listen for reflected sound waves below the wafer surface. This is done with steps of a few tenths of nanometers. An excited sound wave interacts with all transitions and surfaces in the chip. From the reflected waves and time of arrival, the underlying structures beneath the surface can be mapped three-dimensionally in a non-destructive manner, similar to the subsurface mapping in oil exploration and geological surveys.

There’s a great need for metrology to nondestructively map defects and voids at the nanometer level below the surface. The usual tools only touch the surface or are destructive in their imaging. As building 3D structures on chips becomes more common, it’s also important to check that the manufacturing process is going well. Sadeghian says Nearfield has already received an order for the Audira, with delivery planned for early 2024.

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